Hurricane Maria left in its wake a path of destruction and death, never had a storm caused this level of human suffering on the island. Many deaths were attributed to downed power lines and sick individuals who were not able to receive their dialysis treatments or were too weak to survive the many days and weeks that followed without power but if there is a positive aspect in an otherwise horrible catastrophe is that Puerto Rico is now seriously looking at Solar Energy Systems and other Renewable Energy Systems as a more dependable alternative to their energy needs. Over the last few decades there have been very few efforts to supplement Puerto Rico’s mostly oil dependent and obsolete electrical system despite Puerto Ricans paying one of the highest prices per kilowatt in the whole US. The old, outdated, and almost totally oil dependent grid system on the island had been in terrible condition even prior to the storm but the fury of this storm was unprecedented, and it exposed the vulnerability of a totally grid dependent energy system. This was a huge wake up call for their leaders who had to suffer along side the rest of the population.
Puerto Rico has a great tropical climate as do all the islands in the Caribbean but what is a blessing can also be negative, In Puerto Rico’s case it is that it is located right smack in the middle of what is called the hurricane belt. This means every year from June to the end of November there is a good chance that Puerto Rico will be hit by one of these monster storms that rip through the Caribbean every year without exception bringing huge winds, giant waves, and flooding. It doesn’t matter what side you are on when it comes to the climate debate there is no doubt that these Caribbean Islands take a beating every single year and by the time they are finished rebuilding from the last storm, they must start worrying about the next. Solar Energy and other Renewable Energy Systems are now being considered by all Puerto Ricans and their politicians to supplement a good portion of their energy needs not just as some “hippy dippy” save the planet theory but as a sensible way to deal with their future energy needs with solar energy. The idea is not new, but it is now clear that by segmenting the island into many different “micro grids” it is much less likely to have a total collapse such as the one during hurricane Maria. These micro grids are basically a solar energy system that supplies as few as a single house or business built by the owner of said house or business or one built by a local government supplying 50-100 or more houses and businesses. These systems can be self-reliant and repaired quicker than in the case of the existing and obsolete electrical grid, they are more resilient and if properly installed can withstand very high winds without damage.
Some politicians are certainly talking about this and even solar energy giants like Elon Musk have suggested a solar energy system as a viable way to supplement and even totally replace Puerto Rico’s dependency on fossil fuels for their energy needs. Right now, the government is mostly focusing its efforts on reimplementing the old system which at this point is only partially restored and there is still a ton of work to be done. The progress has been frustratingly slow and hopefully it will be largely done at some point in 2018, however, another hurricane season starts in June of 2018. How long will it be this time until the next monster storm hits the island again? Who knows but the reality is that it is not if but a matter of when it will happen again.
While politicians are looking for ways to do these micro grids on a larger scale, some Puerto Rico residents have already started to take matters into their own hands and considered building their own solar energy system for their house or business. A perfect example of this is a Puerto Rican flower farmer who invested in a solar energy system for his business before the storm and while his competitors where unable to function after Hurricane Maria, Hector Santiago of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico was able to function shortly after the storm and save his livelihood (read whole story at http://www.businessinsider.com/r-how-solar-energy-saved-a-puerto-rican-farm-from-hurricane-maria-2017-10 . The examples of such individuals have inspired others to start exploring the possibility of installing a solar energy system which can withstand the fury of a storm and function when the old electrical grid has failed.
Contrary to what some might believe these systems can be installed by the owner at a house or business by following simple instruction and then have an electrician do the final check and connection and it could mean as much as a 30% savings in the installation of the solar energy system. Almost the same principals and components (with a few variables) that go into one solar energy system such as a marine solar application such as a sailboat go into a house or business.
The first calculation that needs to made is what size system you need based on the total amount of watts you use on all your electrical appliances. (you can also look at your electric bill if available) to see your average monthly kilowatt consumption, divide by 1000 to determine total watts and then divide by 30 to come up with an average daily consumption in watts. This simple calculation can help you figure out what size and how many solar panels are necessary to replenish the batteries (click on the link for more information on batteries); your wattage will also help you determine size and quantity of your Solar Charge Controllers ( Regulates charge to the batteries ) and Inverters (see image below and click on the link for more information on inverters) needed to turn the stored DC energy in the batteries into AC power to be used on most household appliances.
The incentives are everywhere for Puerto Rico to use this opportunity to not just fix what is now broken but to prepare for future storms. Some of the obvious incentives include the 30% dollar for dollar tax credit that is currently being offered (expires December 2019) to all Puerto Ricans who install a solar energy system on their house or business. Banks are offering no money down finance plans for solar energy systems and you can rite off any interest paid on the loan, not to mention the long term savings on electric bills to the power company but the biggest incentive for most that are still feeling the horrific effects of being without power for weeks and months at a time is that if they prepare now, the next time one of these monsters storms strikes the island, they will be better prepared for the aftermath of the storm which in many ways at least in the case of Puerto Rico has proven to be much worse than the storm itself.
Puerto Ricans are resilient in spirit and although going through some tough times have managed to work through it and smile. We have heard many stories of people selflessly helping neighbors and lifting each other’s spirits by singing around a neighborhood fire and taking turns at cooking meals and sharing meals with other neighbors. The old saying “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is certainly true in the case of Puerto Rico and its people.
Seapeople Depot is a Florida based company which offers solar energy systems for marine applications and land applications such as houses and businesses. Its proximity to Puerto Rico makes it possible to
ship items from the mainland in many cases for less than would otherwise be the case. If you are considering a solar energy system for your house , boat, RV or oil rig visit us out at www.seapeopledepot.com